Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Top Chef All-Stars

I've been an avid follower of Top Chef for some time now. The "All-Stars" edition of the show has brought together a lot of interesting personalities, very distinct culinary philosophies, and great guest judges.

The best part of this season is the return of Tony Bourdain as a regular judge- I'm an unrepentant fan of his Travel Channel show, his books, and his snarky commentary on everything.

Richard Blais is back, and he is probably my favorite to win, even though the competition is very tough this time around. That said- this week's quickfire was his to fail. The challenge was to make cookies, with the Cookie Monster and a few of his friends as judges. If you know Richard, there is no way he's going to make anything resembling a standard cookie- especially in a quickfire- since a loss means you don't get sent home- a chef like him is always going to push the envelope and do something a little out-there. Clearly they don't have cookies on the planet Richard is from. I'm sure his "not quite a cookie" was interesting, and clearly pushed the boundaries of what we think of as a cookie, but there's no way he's going to win out when the judges are probably looking for something more classic. He ends up in the bottom- I admire his creativity and vision, but he really wasn't going to win this one.

He did redeem himself in the elimination challenge- using only equipment and ingredients found in a Target, he made a not pretty, but good tasting dish, and ended up in the top. The win, however, went to Dale- who stuck to the basics and made something that I really like- a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup- grilled using a steam iron- which Tony Bourdain referred to as "great stoner food."

This is why I have a mild obsession with grilled cheese- it's a no-miss comfort food- even if it's done in college dorm-room style using an iron. I think that actually adds to the experience. Well done Dale. Score one for grilled cheese!

Of course, guest judge Ming Tsai couldn't resist cracking an "Iron Chef" pun. After his run on "The Next Iron Chef" I guess we should have expected it.

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